Tower officer shoots and wounds inmate at Washington State Penitentiary

An officer at the Washington State Penitentiary shot an inmate involved in an assault on another inmate Tuesday night, but the wound was not fatal, the state Department of Corrections said.

The inmate, who was not identified by DOC, was taken to an off-site medical facility for treatment to his “non-life threatening wound.” DOC said on Wednesday morning that he was conscious, in stable condition, and had returned to the penitentiary.

At about 7:48 p.m Tuesday, two inmates assaulted a third in the recreation yard of the prison’s west complex. The tower officer sounded the alarm, warned the inmates through the speaker to stop fighting and then fired one warning shot in an area of the yard where there were no other inmates, said Allison Window, a spokeswoman at the state prison near Walla Walla.

Because the inmates did not stop the altercation, the tower officer fired a shot at the two inmates assaulting the third and hit one of the assailants.

The inmate who was targeted in the assault was admitted to the prison’s Health Services Building for treatment of his injuries.

Window said the inmate who was shot by the tower officer was in the Health Services Building on Wednesday morning, and was separated from the inmate who was the target of the assault.

“The Department of Corrections takes the incident very seriously,” the agency said in a press release.

According to DOC policy, internal and external investigations are conducted any time a weapon is fired at a state prison. The internal investigation by DOC officials reviews the details of the incident and includes a panel that reviews the use of a firearm. The Walla Walla Police Department will do the external investigation.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Window would not identify the tower officer, who according to policy has been placed on paid administrative leave. The events that led up to the assault involving the three inmates also is being investigated, she said.

DOC said the last shooting of an inmate was in June 2012 at Clallam Bay Corrections Center when a staff member was taken hostage. That shooting was a fatality.

James Drew covers the state Legislature and state government for McClatchy’s Washington papers: The News Tribune, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald and The Tri-City Herald.